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ROYAL ASCOT OPENS TUESDAY

Edited Breeders’ Cup Staff Release Next week marks the start of the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting in Britain, which features the first European races of the 2024 Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series: Win and You’re In. Beginning on Tuesday, June 18, this premier week of racing at Ascot Racecourse includes four group stakes that provide guaranteed starts to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is an international series of 82 stakes races whose winners receive automatic starting positions and fees paid into a corresponding race of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, scheduled to be held Nov. 1-2 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, California.

The opening day of the five-day meeting includes the Queen Anne Stakes (G1) over 1 mile for 4-year-olds and up, which serves as an automatic qualifier for the $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and the King Charles III Stakes (G1) over 5 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, offering a free entry into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).

On Wednesday, an automatic starting position into the $5 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) will be on the line in the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales’s Stakes (G1), and on Thursday, the 5-furlong Norfolk Stakes (G2) will give the winner a free berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1).

France Assembles Strong Queen Anne Squad

The opening race on Tuesday, the Queen Anne Stakes, has been won by French-trained horses twice in the last 15 years – by three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile Champion Goldikova (IRE) in 2010 and by Solow (GB) in 2015. There are two leading contenders set to run from France in this year’s race.

Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s Facteur Cheval (FR) was placed in four Group 1 races in 2023, then managed to win his first start of 2024, the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World (G1) at Meydan in March by a head, beating a quality field.

Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor, which owns the horse in partnership with Gary Barber, said: “After Ascot, I think we will focus on international races on a round course. He trained great on the dirt over in Meydan and I think we will try him on that also.  A mile and a quarter on dirt is something we will take a good look at. We haven’t planned anything yet after Ascot, but every option is open.”

Yeguada Centurian SL’s Big Rock (FR) won the QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1) by an astonishing 6 lengths at Ascot in October for trainer Christopher Head, then moved to new stables over the winter. He is now trained by Maurizio Guarnieri and will be partnered with Christophe Soumillon for the first time.

Cheveley Park Stud’s Inspiral (GB), an exhilarating winner of the 2023 Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), has been re-routed from the Queen Anne Stakes to Wednesday’s Prince of Wales’s Stakes by her co-trainers John and Thady Gosden.

Cheveley Park Stud’s 5-year-old Audience (GB), also from the Gosden stable, will be their sole representative in the Queen Anne. The son of Ifrraj (GB) produced a fine front-running performance at Newbury under Rab Havlin. The runner-up from that day, Nurlan Bizakov’s 4-year-old Charyn (IRE) from the Roger Varian stable, will also reoppose at Ascot.

Big Evs Headlines King Charles III

RP Racing Ltd’s Big Evs (IRE),a winner at Royal Ascot last year who went on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita in November, returned with a stylish victory in the British Stallion Studs EBF Westow Stakes at York last month and will bid to win his first domestic Group 1 in the King Charles III Stakes.

Trainer Mick Appleby is hopeful Big Evs has improved from last year, saying: “He’s not grown much but he’s filled out a lot. He’s like a bull now and Tom (Marquand, jockey) said he’s as good as he was in California, if not better. From two to three you just never know, but he showed the signs at home that he’s still got it, and he showed us that on the track too at York.”

The King Charles III Stakes is most often an international affair, and this year is no different with Australian trainer Henry Dwyer sending Noor Elaine Farm Pty Ltd’s 5-year-old mare Asfoora (AUS) to the race. She warmed up for Ascot with an encouraging fourth in the Betfred Temple Stakes (G2). Meanwhile, last year’s Queen Mary Stakes (G2) winner Crimson Advocate, for American trainer George Weaver, returns to Royal Ascot. The 3-year-old filly has new connections in owners Wathnan Racing and co-trainers John & Thady Gosden.

Last year’s Betfair Sprint Cup (G1) winner, the 6-year-old gelding Regional (GB),is a leading British hope for young trainer Ed Bethell and owners Future Champions Racing Regional. The victory at Haydock gave both Bethell and his jockey Callum Rodrigues a first Group 1. Regional returned to action in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes (G2) at The Curragh when finishing second to Mrs. Fitri Hay’s 5-year-old Mitbaahy (IRE),and those two are expected to lock horns again on Tuesday.

As part of the benefits of the Challenge Series, Breeders’ Cup will pay the entry fees for the winner of Queen Anne Stakes to start in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile, and the winner of the King Charles III Stakes to start in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Breeders’ Cup will also provide a travel allowance for all starters based outside of North America to compete in the World Championships. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the pre-entry deadline of Oct. 21 to receive the rewards.

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